Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sepia Saturday: A wedding at Balmattum

In 1890 William Robert Phelan was appointed headteacher at Balmattum, a rural area north of Euroa in north-east Victoria. He was 29 years old, the son of an Irish Catholic family in Coburg, a northern suburb of Melbourne. He's my husband's great-grandfather.

Seven years later, in 1897, he married a local girl. Maggie was the daughter of Daniel and Christina McKernan, prominent residents of the area. Daniel was also Irish-born but Protestant, as was his Scottish wife. Maggie was 24 and William was 36. They were married at Maggie's home, the 'Royal Hotel' . The Royal was a combined hotel, post office, general store and residence for about forty-five years. It is now a private residence called 'Hawthorn House' and is owned by a descendant of Daniel and Christina McKernan.

Mixed marriages (as in Catholic-Protestant) were unusual at the time so I'm not sure how it came about and I wonder of what their parents and the community thought of it. William was never a practising Catholic so that may have helped.

William Phelan and Maggie McKernan wedding, Balmattum, Victoria 1897
The wedding party includes four bridesmaids and two groomsmen, all of whom are siblings or cousins of the bride and groom. It also includes the parents of both Daniel and Maggie. And this is why I treasure this photo - it's the only photo I have of Jane and Daniel Phelan. And it's the only photo I have of William's brother, Jack Phelan (top left in the above photo), who died 12 years later at the age of 37.

Jane and Daniel Phelan
Christina McKernan (nee Gordon)
Daniel McKernan

The wedding was reported in great detail. including a list of all the presents. Apparently the wedding was a 'scene of great excitement', there were about 100 guests and the room was beautifully decorated.

Euroa Advertiser, 15 Jan 1897
You can see more delightful wedding photos over at Sepia Saturday.


  1. A lovely clear old photo, and a great description too. I have no group photos of my grandparents' weddings, let alone any of great grandparents! Incidentally, we got married on their anniversary, 77 years later (5.1.74). Have a safe trip, Lorraine.

  2. Oh my goodness, those beards would so make a great bearded post! A great presentation for this week, very nice.

  3. Wonderful to have a family photo from so far back; it is indeed to be treasured.

  4. What a wonderfully preserved photo of that wedding. It often is surprising how clear & concise those old photos are & how well they enlarge. Nice post!

  5. How wonderful to have such an old photo. Also great that the home remains in the family!

  6. That is a photo to treasure and you've done a skillful job of isolating the various identities to show their features better.

  7. This was a great post based on one photo and one wedding. I am so glad that you know who is who in the photo, kuddos to whoever kept records! We who chase ancestors are always so happy to have that information. And the hotel/home story is also great!

  8. Two of the best beards I've seen and a great old photo.

  9. What wonderful photos! Daniel was my great great great uncle - thank you for sharing!


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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